Sunday, June 26, 2022

learned he's on board

Chris V texted me.

"I just requested my first image from BGO!"

All right! Such a great system the Burke-Gaffney Observatory accessible to the public. That'll be good when Chris needs a deep-sky object image quickly.

I look forward to seeing his first result...

represented the OC

Did my little bit at the Annual General Meeting...

Gave a high-level summary of what happened in the national Observing Committee in 2021.

Of course, the big thing, was our record-smashing number of certifications.

Thanked Samantha for the Big Push in December 2021 to button everything up.

Thanked the committee members, nothing the two people exiting.

delivered citizen science talk

Delivered my talk for the General Assembly.

I was first up on Sunday afternoon. People from Hamilton, Lawrence, Kansas!, Toronto, Victoria, Rigaud, Qu├ębec, Thornhill, Ottawa, Fredericton, Baton Rouge, Louisiana! Wow. 

Lauri got us started and briefly introduced me.

Citizen Science - Measuring Double Stars

Talk went OK. Kirsten shared my resource links as we went. We took some questions.

I captured the notes from the Zoom chat.

From David L at 01:24 PM
I have the Celestron 12.5 illuminated reticle eyepiece, same as the Baader. If you have lost your instructions they can be found here

From Jada Y at 01:25 PM
Thank you, this was really cool! 

From Pat Seilis at 01:25 PM
Thanks Blake.   Excellent as always!

From Eric Smialek at 01:25 PM
Really appreciate your enthusiasm!

From Glenn Hawley at 01:28 PM
Exxxxxcellent presentation
Do you have to take into consideration the 'view' through the scope when estimating 'clock' position? (reversed, mirror image, etca)

From Swapna Shrivastava at 01:28 PM
Thank you!

From David Lee to Everyone 01:30 PM
Many thanks!


I'll follow up with David with my revised, enhanced, and universal procedure for a reticule eyepiece.

I answered Glenn's query within the Q&A period. I said, "Record what you see." Use the clock-face. Use "in view" markers, other stars, etc. Then I suggested later, maybe the morning after, you worry about the telescope-eyepiece optical train presentation. Count the reflections to determine whether your going clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

received ETU Guide Book

Received a hard copy of the Explore The Universe Guide Book from RASC, 3rd Edition, written by Brenda Shaw.

Apropos the committee chair know what's in this book.

cover of the ETU Guide

A bit thinner than I expected but looks good!

Monday, June 20, 2022

did s/w training admin

Did a bunch of Stellarium Training Series administrative work.

Processed people from Al's level 1 last week. Reviewed evals, followed up on one, added interested parties to the level 2 wait list, invited people to the Classroom.

Loaded more people into my level 2 for Monday 4 July. Clarified for some people the level 2 is not solely on driving a mount. Remembered to add the event to the RASC main calendar.

received consent form

Heard from Lauren Knowles.

She thanked me for my patience and provided the image consent form.

Good stuff!


Heard from Steve Kerr.

He copied Murray Forbes.

It was regarding the TTSO16 event.

He said I was on the list.

All right!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

can't play

Learned that 2001: A Space Odyssey is playing at the Ontario Place Cinesphere on the afternoon of 26 June.

Dang. Good place to see it, in 70mm.

That's a busy day for me with RASC GA stuff...

I'm afraid I can't do that.

provided links

As requested, I sent a list of the hyperlinks I'll be showing in my Citizen Science presentation next week.

I'll have another look at the presentation proper but I think it is fairly stable...

sorry, no

Asked if I'd do a presentation to the RASC Toronto Centre.

Nope. No can do.

shared log files

Per Greg instructions, I took a backup on the SkyTools logs only.

Packaged up and shared with him.

He's back home now so he can scan the individual log files to find the culprit.

received ETUGB files

Dave and I were given access to the Explore The Universe Guide Book files today.

That'll help us as we review the 3rd edition for any errors...

The original files were made with InDesign. Fortunately, there are PDFs available as well.


Received an email "Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender."

My request message to the director of the TTSO16 bounced.

Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 5.7.1 Message rejected due to SPF policy.

Whatever that means...


Dropped a reply in the forum...

registered for the TTSO16

Spotted the notice on the IOTA forum by Dave Herald regarding the upcoming Sixteenth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations event.

Specifically, that he was going to be demonstrating the Occult software. General use and on double star occultations. 

Hello. I perked up.

I know the basics but I'd like to learn the software better. While I have attempted asteroid occultations, I'm very interested in the occultation of double stars.

The time zones are going to present a challenge. I'll have to stay up at 3:00 AM local time to view. Ugh.

Followed the instructions and sent a note to the director.

Friday, June 17, 2022

followed the shaped-masks topic

Stumbled across an interesting conversation in Cloudy Nights.

The title: Observation of Close Binaries using Shaped Aperture Masks.


Shared some information on the small mask I had made.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

ring, ring

Ah. The Astronomer Hotline.

Oh, how many of these kinds of calls have I taken...

xkcd comic - Astronomer Hotline

This comic is from

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

DDO recognised by GC

I learned today that the Government of Canada recognised the national significance of the David Dunlap Observatory.

RASC Toronto DDO Outreach chair Denise Chilton was on hand. 

They unveiled a commemorative plaque with English and French. It reads:

This observatory helped established academic astronomy in Canada.  C.A. Chant, a founder of the discipline in Canada, championed its construction for the University of Toronto.  Since its opening in 1935, scientists and the public have studied the night sky from this once-isolated campus, where Thomas Bolton confirmed the existence of black holes in 1972 and Helen Sawyer Hogg catalogued star clusters.  The site consists of several structures, including a Beaux-Arts-style Administration Building and the Great Telescope Dome, which combined Modern and Neo-Classical elements, and houses what was once the second-largest telescope in the world.

See the news release for more information.

completed proper comparison

OK. I think I have it now. I figured it out myself. Thanks to Blue Stacks...

This chart will show what's included and not included in the free or basic version of Stellarium Mobile.

feature or capability basic full
product name Mobile    Plus
cost * freeCAD $25
realistic sky display yesyes
search by name, category, or favourites yesyes
date, time, and speed controls yesyes
stars, to magnitude 824
control star label density noyes
control star magnitude limit noyes
control star brightness noyes
constellations lines and borders yesyes
other sky cultures and lore yesyes
planets and asteroids yesyes
planet image resolution lowhigh
planet 3D interactive views no yes
control planet label density noyes
artificial satellites yesyes
space station 3D interactive view no yes
control satellite label density noyes
deep sky objects, to magnitude 1018
DSO image resolution lowhigh
control DSO label density noyes
azimuthal grid yesyes
toggle cardinal points yesyes
equatorial grid, current and J2000 noyes
ecliptic line noyes
meridian line noyes
celestial equator noyes
toggle atmosphere yesyes
control light pollution noyes
ground fog noyes
planets and satellites visible for the evening noyes
calendar with solar system events noyes
eyepiece, camera, Telrad oculars noyes
telescope control noyes
start-up time control noyes
full-screen override noyes
interactive visibility elevation graph noyes

This table should help a user when considering the upgrade to the full paid version. Is it worth it? Check which features are not available and ask yourself if you need or want them.

People using the free version may note a green padlock icon. This represents a feature not available but unlocked with cash.

locked features in the main menu

And over here in the object information screen:

more locked features is Stellarium Mobile - basic

On the Android platform, there is an option wherein you can "try" the advanced features for 30 days paying CAD $2.50.


Table updated on 16 June.


Len, new double star certificate applicant, pinged me again.

Was happy to hear from me. Tidying his log notes. He's scanning sheets. Getting ready to share.

Then he said, 

So cool that you responded as you're the "face" of Canadian double star observing for me with videos, articles, etc.  I also enjoy many of the threads on Cloudy Nights Double Star forum, especially from Canadian contributors like Dave (Cotts), Chris (c2m2t), and yourself.  Just a great community!

Wow. That's very nice.

The face? 


noted the Edit tab

Was surprised to discover I could edit the Observing Committee's Tips and Tricks page today.

Walter must have flicked a switch.

I let Melody know. She was pleased. She in turn let Dave know: he's off the hook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

clarified the number of seconds

Messaged briefly with James E, assistant editor for the Journal.

He was looking for some clarification.

240s or 4m

Did I shoot 240 one-second exposures or a few 240-second exposures?

Hyphens matter.

circled a date

Sent out a note to Stellarium trainees looking for some level 2 intermediate knowledge (on the computer product).

Penciled in July 4. Most of the people are in western Canada so I offered an appropriate time in the evening.

With sufficient interest I'll firm up that date.

read about new domes

The Allan I Carswell Observatory (AICO) received their two new domes.

CTV News Toronto reported on the installation of the new fully-automated shuttered domes, replacing the original ones, some 50 years old. 

crane operations at the observatory

The York U Twitter feed has lots of photos and video.

Dr Hyde had been deep in the planning while I was at Killarney... I am pleased for her.


what's different?

I had another look inside my app. From the hamburger main menu, I chose Stellarium PLUS.

A four panel display appears.

Screen 1 says: Massive objects catalogs: 1.6 billion stars, 2 million Deep Sky Objects.

The next: High resolution planets and deep sky images.

Then: Telescope Control: drive any telescope compatible with NexStar, SynScan, or LX200 through Bluetooth or WIFI.

Finally: Advanced settings & observation planning features.

On the web site, 4 differences are noted:

3D View

Observe Calendar

Instrument Ocular

Telescope Control

So, there's partial overlap. 

I believe a list should note the following:

Basic does not have:

a massive catalog of stars

a masstive catalog of DSOs

high rez images of planets

high rez images of DSOs

telescope control

3D View

Observe Calendar

Instrument Ocular

heard from a NB member

Len from New Brunswick reached out. He's wrapping up observations for the RASC Double Stars program. He's looking for a reviewer.

No worries. The national committee will help.

Another convert!

tried to get more info

Thought I'd reach out to the Stellarium Labs crew to learn more about the differences between the basic/free version versus the paid product.

I started off with:

I was reading the web site comparing the free vs paid versions of Stellarium Mobile.  I understand the free version does not have 3D Views, the Observe/ calendar function, the Instruments Oculars, nor the Telescope control.  I thought I read somewhere else that the free version does not show as many stars?  Is that correct?  Are there any other differences?

A short time later, Darlene R replied.

Yes, this is mostly correct.  Visibility features and other advanced settings are also included in the PLUS version.

OK. If I'm mostly correctly, what did I get right and what did I get wrong? What are the "other" settings?

Then she did a bit of a sales pitch!

I responded:

Please let me know exactly which visibility features are included and not included in basic.

She sent me an image showing an object's elevation profile with this note:

You will be able to see the time an object will be visible (its rising and setting time) and also, the path it will be taking in the sky.

OK. But surely there are other differences... And a question from my first missive remained unanswered. I asked again:

What about the stars?

She replied. 

The app views all known stars: Gaia DR2 catalog of over 1.4 Billion stars.  You will be able to browse it at Search (upper right corner) > Browse by type > Stars.

Still didn't answer the question.

Frustrating when people don't carefully read their email.

No further ahead after this exchange with I presume a paid employee.

I terminated the conversation. Said I'll look elsewhere.

Monday, June 13, 2022

a nearly perfect course

Delivered the Stellarium Mobile Plus course for the RASC Stellarium Training Series.

First run.

And it went very well. Very very well.

I had a good amount of content. Not too much this time. Not cramming at the end. No technical glitches.

The attendees were quite happy and generous in their compliments.

It felt nearly perfect. 

Which is so satisfying. Building a brand new course from scratch and hitting the bullseye? Extremely fulfilling.

it really is free

While preparing for the Stellarium Mobile course delivery, I had a quick look at the software web site, (N.B. that's not, and then popped into the respective online stores to check the versions and prices. I had noted a different number for the iOS product.

Latest version for Android: 1.8.8.

Latest version for iOS: 1.9.1.

Then I read the version history for the iOS product...

For version 1.9.0 they say

In this new version, we made Stellarium mobile free with an in-app purchase to unlock the full version, so that you can try a limited version for free before deciding to buy it or not...

Well. How about that.

Stellarium Mobile is now available for free on iOS.


This is interesting repercussions.

Now when people say "Stellarium is completely free on all devices!" I don't have to jump up and correct them.

The free products are "basic" or scaled down. The free versions do not offer 3D Views (on the ISS and planets for example), the Observe planning and calendar feature, the Instruments and Oculars, nor the Telescope Control. I thought I read somewhere that a smaller number of stars is shown.

But the big thing I'm wondering is how it will affect my training course... Hmmm.

podcast is up

It's live.

Episode 230 of The Actual Astronomy Podcast is up.

Or listen directly to this episode on Podbean.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

recorded podcast

Met up with Chris and Shane to record episode 230 of the Actual Astronomy podcast.

We talked about my recent stint at the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory, the RASC Double Stars observing program, and double stars in general.

My first time officially meeting Shane. That was good.

Should be up tomorrow.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

keeping it simple

Watched the Astronomy for Everyone episode with Adrian Bradley.

(First met him in the Explore Scientific podcast.)

He's such an amazing photographer. I love his nightscapes.

What's very impressive to me is he keeps it simple.

One shot.

He likes taking one shot, say up to 30 seconds. Now a camera body that supports high ISO helps. And he's using fast lenses, up to 2.8.

See his online gallery on Adobe Portfolio. 

received Jul/Aug SkyNews

Received the July/August issue of SkyNews in the mail. Nice little surprise.

Lots of great articles. The piece on meteorite craters is very interesting. I enjoyed Eric's interview of Chris and Shane and learning more about The Actual Astronomy Podcast. Looking forward to reading Alan's article on exploring the Milky Way with binoculars.

cover of the Jul-Aug SkyNews

This issue features my article on planning software. I talk about SkyTools, Astro Planner, Deep Sky Planner, Stellarium, SkySafari, and Telescopius.

Cover image coming soon...


Spotted in my local on 16 June. Found the cover online.


And it was highlighted online...

web site featuring my planning software piece

I note my planning article.